Does ‘Ask For Angela’ actually work?
We questioned bars and clubs
Ask For Angela is a relatively new campaign designed to reduce sexual abuse on nights out. It originated in a pub in Lincolnshire in 2016 and since then, it has received nationwide attention and has been adopted by bars and clubs around the country.
The general idea is that if you are out on a date, or even just on a night out, and you are made to feel uncomfortable, you could ask a member of staff for 'Angela', and they would understand the situation and call for a taxi or help you to leave discreetly. In theory, this is a fantastic idea, which should help people to feel safer when going on dates and more comfortable about admitting when someone is making them feel uneasy.
But does this actually work? Have all bar staff, bouncers and waiters been informed properly on the campaign, and told what they should do if they were asked for 'Angela'? We went to popular bars across Southampton to see if staff understood what 'Ask For Angela' is and what other policies they have in place to reduce sexual abuse.
I spoke to a bouncer from Jesters, who had heard of 'Ask for Angela', but had not been specifically informed about it by the club itself. However, he did tell me that their bouncers are trained to notice vulnerable situations, and that he had helped to diffuse several incidents without having to hear these code-words. The bouncers at Jesters also wear cameras around their necks, in response to the sexual assault that happened outside the club late last year. This shows concern for customer safety and a rapid reaction to instances that happen in their surrounding area.
The bouncer told me that vulnerable girls were 'top of the watch list' at the moment for staff in nightclubs and bars, so Jesters are clearly very vigilant when it comes to sexual abuse
The Shooting star
The barman informed us that all the staff at The Shooting Star are aware of 'Ask for Angela' and that anyone using the code word would be discreetly escorted out through the fire exit. There were also posters in the girl's toilet informing people of the campaign, so women in trouble would know how to subtly get staff attention. No one had used 'Ask for Angela' yet, but the barman told us of an instance where a man was instantly removed from the bar after becoming irate when he was rejected by a woman. Staff are always patrolling the bar areas and a lot of the staff drink there on their nights off, so there are constantly people on the look out for shady characters and uncomfortable situations.
They also had a notice at the exit to the bar with a list of taxi numbers, reminding people to call for taxis to make sure they get home safely or to get a member of staff to do so for them. This showed a clear regard for customer safety even beyond the pub doors.
The Stag's seemed very supportive of the 'Ask for Angela' campaign. A barmaid informed me that the management had alerted all staff to the campaign and trained them on what to do if a customer asked them for Angela – the distressed person would be taken behind the bar and into the office. The code-word had not yet been used in the bar, but there are posters in the girls' toilets to raise awareness of the campaign and make sure girls know what to do if they required help. I was also told that The Stag's are currently trying to find new ways of tackling sexual abuse, so they are clearly very concerned for student welfare.
Situated on Bevois Valley road and connected to the University, this was one of the best bars we went to in terms of their regard for customer safety. The barmaid knew exactly what 'Ask for Angela' was, and took us to a discreet room, completely secluded from the rest of the bar, to show us where they take people who are feeling uncomfortable. There were also informative posters about the campaign in the girls' toilets, which have been there for four months now. 'Ask for Angela' had been used before in the bar, by girls made to feel uneasy by both people they knew and complete strangers.
Bouncers are SIA trained and patrol the dance floor at all times, instantly removing anyone who causes trouble. The barmaid also told us of a time where a man was abruptly removed from the bar for using homophobic slur, showing that staff are on the look out for verbal abuse as well as physical.
The barman at Wild Lime had heard of 'Ask for Angela', but said that the staff had not been specifically informed about it or told what to do if someone asked for Angela. There were no posters around informing people of the campaign and they did not appear to have many particular policies in place when it came to sexual abuse. However, the barman did say that a member of staff would intervene if they saw the incident first hand.
The barmaid had heard about the campaign, but again, had not been informed about it by the management of the bar themselves. However, she did mention that staff are always on the look-out for dodgy behaviour, and how female members of staff have previously approached girls who seem vulnerable or distressed to check that they are okay.